Kids at the STEAM program in Columbus Grove work on creating their (one or the other) stomp rocket using paper and cardboard/galaxy designs using shaving cream and food coloring - Putnam Sentinel
Kids at the STEAM program in Columbus Grove work on creating their (one or the other) stomp rocket using paper and cardboard/galaxy designs using shaving cream and food coloring. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — “We have learning stations for science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) activities,” says Valerie Laukhuf with the Putnam County District Library. “We just came up with some fun things that go along with our summer theme. Which is, ‘A Universe of Stories.’”

Mrs. Laukhuf is describing a program taking place this week throughout Putnam County’s district library system. A team of library workers, volunteers, and partners such as The Ohio State have put together a series of activities that offer a physical connection to abstract concepts in each STEAM field.

“We have barbies,” she continues, “Which you don’t think of with science, right? Well, kids will dress them up like astronauts. They have to figure out how to create an astronaut costume for them. Then there’s ‘Make Do’ kits which have safe tools such as plastic saws, screwdrivers and screws. The goal here is to create something, and each one of our stations has a sign offering suggestions on what they should do. The ‘Make Do’ kit is challenging them to use these pieces [of cardboard and construction paper] to build something inside their imagination, using their ‘thinking caps.’”

“Outside we have three stomp rockets that are put together with PVC pipe. This is going to give them the idea that, ‘Hey, this is something I can do at home.’ It’s a couple of pipes, some elbow joints, and two-liter bottles. They’re going to build a paper rocket in here with different pieces, and then they’re going to take it outside and they’re going to stomp on the stomp rocket and see how high they go.”

“Let me tell you,” she adds, “We had one at Kalida go up on the roof at the building. They go really, really high.”

Mrs. Laukhuf readily admits that this is her personal favorite of the activities. The stomp rocket, and the art station where kids designed their own galaxies using shaving cream and food coloring, seemed the most popular during the Sentinel’s visit to the Columbus Grove branch on Monday afternoon. Kids were also challenged to re-create astronomy constellations using marshmallows and sticks. And, a guest from the OSU Extension office brought small omni-directional, self-propelling spheres that can be controlled using a tablet, along with a smart soccer ball that can measure the force of a kick and the distance the ball travels afterwards.

Each activity connects a concept in STEAM to a physical action or result. In other words, children are learning by doing. And really, they’re learning while playing.

“That’s really important to us. That’s what it’s all about,” says Mrs. Laukhuf. “We try all summer long to come up with things that we can do with the kids that not only support learning in general. Because a couple of years ago we switched from a ‘summer reading’ to a ‘summer learning’ challenge. We offer challenges to do all summer long that go beyond reading. This includes doing science experiments, and doing things that support science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Because we need to be learning all of the time in everything that we do.”

The STEAM program continues this week at PCDL branch libraries. Programs will be held today at 11 a.m. in Ottoville and 1 p.m. in Pandora; and tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Continental and 1 p.m. in Leipsic. For more information on STEAM and other fun and educational activities happening all summer long, visit www.mypcdl.org or call: 419-523-3747.